If you’re reading a book while eating oatmeal, if you’re chatting with your best friend while scrolling through social media, if you’re walking your dog while chatting on the phone with Uncle Craig, what exactly are you doing?
Hard to say without getting too philosophical.
My view is that if you’re doing two things at once, you’re doing neither. That leaves us with plenty of room for interpretation.
It’s easier to catch up on all the world’s information than it is to sit still and eat a bowl of oatmeal.*
*It is for me, at least. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wrangle myself down to a chair to do nothing else but eat my morning oatmeal. Eating my oatmeal without checking my email or reading a newsletter is like snatching a babies favorite toy out of their hand.
My buddy Cullin is at the scariest time of any writer’s life.
He’s expressing a unique point of view.
With his name on it.
He’s detaching himself from mass thinking, even if the much of the mass is partly favor of the “good guy.”
To come alive as a writer, as a creator, is to accept the fact that people will disagree with you. What’s scary about this is that most people confuse disagreeing with dismantling a friendship. “I can’t disagree with you because your standpoint is so foreign to me, so instead I’m just going to cut you out of my life.”
It’s rare to find a writer brave enough to not only challenge collective assumptions, but to challenge them in public.
Cullin is one of those writers.
Here’s his newest piece about a young man trying to find his way through today’s chaotic world.
The old philosophers treated their bodies and brains as the object that wisdom would act upon. They treated wisdom as something transformative: something that would change the way they thought about themselves and the world.
And that’s exactly what wisdom is supposed to do. Wisdom is that which changes the way you think about yourself and the world.
Philosophy really means love of change. Love of transformation. Love of growth. Love of curiosity. Love of the person you are, and the person you could be.
But now, we’re getting dangerously close to turning wisdom into a commodity. Post a hashtag about how many books you’re reading this week, and you’re guaranteed at least ten hits of dopamine. I can’t tell if we’re rewarding people for discipline, or for taking pictures of well-known books.
It’s not hard to be wise. I can teach you how to be wise on one step.
If everyone around you is thinking the same thing, think about something else if it’s appropriate to do so.
Correct: While everyone gets angry at the problem, you think about how to solve the problem.
Incorrect: While everyone cries at the funeral, you daydream about that Chipotle Burrito you ate for lunch yesterday.
I sat down with my buddy Pranav Mutatkar to talk about wisdom, where to find it, and why we should read old philosophers in a short (20 minute) conversation. Pranav is an excellent podcast host. He’s curious (the most important part), quick, smart, and knows how to hold a conversation no matter what format.
(*Pretend I didn’t write this in the middle of the lockdown.)
The opposite of a winner is someone who doesn’t know that they’re capable of being a winner.
You could finish last, and still learn something valuable. Or you could finish last, and quit because the skill ceiling is too high. It doesn’t matter if the game is too hard. It doesn’t matter if the grammar is too complex. What you measure is your reward.
You could cheat your way to first place, and become a better cheater. You could fail your Japanese class, but still know the difference between “に” and “に.” In both cases, you’re a winner: you’re still gaining something.
Lighting. Clothing. The speed of your voice. Are you looking at the camera, or looking down at the ground? Sit up straight, but don’t stiffen up like a skeleton. Is there anything distracting in the background?
These details matter. You might have groundbreaking ideas, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t convince anyone to put their phone in their pocket while you speak.
Performative Speaking is only just beginning. I’ve already learned much from Robbie Crabtree about why good presentation matters as much as having good stories.
Your mind, like your body, needs the nutrients and vitamins of good ideas in order to survive and thrive. But as we grow older, our ego turns our head away from good ideas like the child avoiding the choo-choo train of a spoonful of peas.
Good ideas aren’t found out there. They’re found in here, in you. Wisdom means nothing to those who don’t listen. To really read a good book, you first need to actually want to read it. Your own inclination comes from within, not from without.
Therapy is a waste of time (for the client and therapist) to the person forced to go to therapy. “I, according to so-and-so, need help.” That never works. The same is true of reading.
You need to understand your motivations for reading a book. Are you thinking of buying this book because Barnes & Noble says everyone in your town is reading it? Do you want to read because that’s what smart people do? Is the self-improvement regime court ordering you to read a book because if you don’t, then you must be a loser? Or do you want to read because there’s something you need to figure out?
There’s a mistake in assuming all answers come from the outer world. Yes, good books help, but how you approach the book – how you read the book – matters more than what the book is about. Are you reading so that you can show off to your friends? Are you reading just to confirm your barely stable mental model of the world? Or are you reading because you’ve been wearing a dunce cap your entire life, and you’d like to be less of a dunce?
Ask yourself: are my actions in the outer world strengthening, harmonizing, feeding my mind with the proper nutrients?
The outer world nourishes your inner world only when your inner world is understood, and by understood I mean that it is respected: your inner world — your psychology — is never fully understood.
To have insight is to question your reasons for doing anything other than eating, drinking, defecating, and breathing.
P.S: I turned 26 yesterday. Thanks to all who sent me birthday wishes, and big thanks especially to those who sent me some good books. I super appreciate it.
Today is my birthday. The following people made my 25th year on this planet my favorite year yet. I’ve known many of you for only 2 months, many more for only a week. And yet it feels I’ve known all of you my whole life.
Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for pursuing creative excellence.
Let’s see if I can remember all of you in one go.
Steven D. Cullin. Pranav. Alex. Chris. Audrey. Robbie. Sean. Imah. Rich. Nat. Nathan. Sebastian. Kyle. Austin. Greg. Shelby. Noxy. Andrew. April. Uri. Steven K. Rob. Jordan. Jamie. Arielle. Phil. Bjorn. Daniel. Ben. Logan. And you.
Cheers, and here’s to another good 25 years.
P.S: I tried not to rely on social media. If you don’t see your name on this list and you’ve been on my podcast or helped me with a project, thanks a million.
In 1992, riding a skateboard up and down a half-pipe wasn’t cool. The world turned its attention to street skating. Something with more edge, more rebelliousness, less polished and less about sponsorships and money.
But that didn’t stop a scrappy kid in Carlsbad from riding his skateboard everyday. Because Tony Hawk knew that if the world decided that vert skating was cool again, he would be ready.
In 1999, Tony Hawk landed the world’s first 900.
What will you do when things get slow? Will you wait for the world to tell you what’s cool and what’s not? Or will you tighten your bearings, wax the rails, and drop in?
It happened so fast that my brain didn’t get the chance to flash my life before my eyes.
“Hey, drive safe tonight, alright?” Said my buddy J.
“Yeah yeah, thanks, I will.” It’s the classic Californian mark of reassurance: I promise not to switch songs on Spotify while traversing the most dangerous place on planet Earth: The Interstate 5. (In California, we just call it “The 5.”)
I learned to drive when I was 19. I haven’t been in one accident. I’ve driven from San Diego to Tucson. I’ve driven from San Diego to Santa Cruz. And I’ve driven to L.A and back more times than I can count. Statisticians can work out the probability of me getting in an accident considering my track record of safe driving.
But that’s the problem. There is no such thing as safe driving. Not in California, anyways. Anyone who’s sane and living in the golden state knows this: driving on the freeway puts you at a higher risk of death than eating 6 Big Macs a day.
I drive safe. Other people don’t. And if everyone had that mindset, there would be less accidents. Instead, we get the opposite. We get people who drive under the mindset of, “everyone drives too slow [safe], so I need to get around them.”
That being said, I have no clue what was happening in the car that came inches away from slamming into my driver’s side windows at 65 miles an hour. It was 9:30 pm on a Monday. They could have been drunk. They could have been high. They could have been horny. I have no idea. The car showed up on my side so fast it was as if a wizard teleported them there.
I didn’t get the chance to watch my fondest childhood memories. The VCR operator of my mind’s eye couldn’t start the tape in time. The car regained balance in the next lane over, and left me feeling like this.
But I’m alive, breathing, and rubbing my Genie lamp wishing for Elon Musk to hurry the hell up and get self-driving cars to replace all these hurried, horrible drivers.
Half an hour later, I pulled up to my driveway.
I forgot I had left my GPS on.
“Welcome home,” it said.
Thousands of friends, parents, children, wives, husbands, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers flashed before my eyes.
Done isn’t better than perfect. Done isn’t good enough.
Polished is better than perfect. Polished means you’re paying attention. Polished means you’re not rushing it. Polished means no multitasking* because if you do, you’ll let too many oversights through the gate of the publish button.
By all means, ship your work. Publish something. Start talking to us and show us what you know. But don’t keep us waiting while you wait for perfection to arrive from Amazon.
Here’s a few mistakes I’ve made as a podcaster. I’ve made these mistakes because I worked too fast on too many tasks at the same time.
I uploaded today’s episode of the podcast to YouTube with a clip of my screen recording a song I wanted to use for the intro.
A guest told me not to publish the video version of our conversation. A week later, I made a trailer for Twitter, Instagram, and my newsletter, using clips from the video version of our conversation. (So sorry, U.)
Episodes 19, 20, and 21 have/will have sloppy audio quality on my end. I’ve forgotten to run test recordings of me and my guest before starting the show. (Some have told me that audacity could help with this, but I’ve yet to look into it.)
I want to use this Blockhead beat as my podcast intro, but copyright exists. Thinking I could get away with it, I uploaded today’s episode with the song at the beginning. The episode isn’t on Apple yet, and I’m thinking it’s because I’ve used the beat without permission. I’m stubborn and I don’t like using stock music for anything I make, so I’ve sent Blockhead a cold email asking if I can use the track.
I’ve dwelt on mistakes longer than it took for me to see and fix the mistake. This is the worst mistake a creator can make. There’s few mishaps that take more than 5 minutes to fix. But you’re not careful, you could spend hours sulking over something you forgot to do. Don’t sulk. Fix it and move on.
Make stuff. Break stuff.
Fix the stuff you broke.
But don’t dwell on it. You wouldn’t cry over spilt milk, nor should you cry over a misplaced apostrophe, a broken hyperlink, or equipment left unplugged.
Because here you are, making stuff instead of not making stuff.
So please, go make stuff.
*I’m writing this while waiting for today’s episode to re-render. I don’t listen to my own advice that often.
On the bright side, I’ve yet to forget to press RECORD an hour into an episode. I shudder to imagine what I would do if that happened. I wouldn’t get out of bed for weeks if that happened. So, let’s make sure that never happens.